The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced it will provide an additional $81 million in funding to the Sahel region of West Africa, where a prolonged drought threatens to leave as many as 18 million people, including 1 million children, without an adequate food supply this summer.
According to USAID, the U.S. government and the United Nations estimate that up to 8 million of the region's 18 million people will face severe food shortages requiring emergency assistance during 2012.
The Sahel region (map) of West Africa extends from the nations of Senegal to Chad, skirting the Sahara Desert. The region's nations of Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Cameroon have all declared food emergencies.
USAID estimates that the additional $81 million will assist more than three million at-risk people, while bringing the total U.S. contribution to the Sahel region during Fiscal Year 2012 to more than $308 million.
"When I was in Rome earlier this year, I pledged, along with other donors, to match early warnings with early action in the Sahel," said Nancy Lindborg of USAID. "The U.S. government has lived up to that pledge with a strong, smart response that provides life-saving food aid to meet immediate needs and is working to help the people of the Sahel break out of this cycle of chronic crisis."
Of the $81 million, $56 million will go to the UN World Food Program, which will use about $36 million for in-kind food distribution and $20 million to purchase and distribute sorghum, a staple food in the region.
The more than $308 million in U.S. aid provided during 2012 has been and will be used to provide direct food and nutritional assistance, agricultural development and job creation projects throughout the Sahel region.